Three Major Influential Classical Islamic Scholars in the Development of Philosophy and Islamic Psychology

Keywords: Islamic, scholar, philosophy, psychology, Al-Ghazali, Al-Kindi, Ibn Arabi, Muslim.

1. Al-Ghazali  

This Muslim scholar had the full name Abu Hamid Muhammad Al-Ghazali. Born in 1058 during the Seljuk Empire and died in 1111, Al-Ghazali reminded us that the most important thing for humans is that we must own a healthy heart. A healthy heart is a heart that fears Allah and is able to control the whole activities of the body, physic, and mind, which is called spiritual healthiness.

He said that spiritual health is the most important thing in human life than physical health because later it is the heart that will be asked by Allah to be accountable or responsible in front of Allah about everything we had done in our whole life in this dunya or world. This is stated in Al-Quran Surah Al-Isra (17:36): “And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.” (

Imam Al-Ghazali also said that there are qualities of the heart that we must avoid in life:

a. Hasad, which means envy. Jealousy is a disease of the heart that must be avoided because it makes the heart uneasy when it sees other people happy. To avoid it we must always be grateful for what we have now.

b. Rīyāʾ, which means to show off or like to do good in order to be praised by others. The trait that we must avoid because of good deeds is a practice that must be based on sincerity and not for the sake of praise or recognition from others.

c. ‘Ujub, which means proud or arrogant. Arrogance and snobbishness will only distance us from those around us. The opposite of being arrogant is humility, a trait that we must always instill in ourselves.

He explained that every human being must seriously cleanse the heart of these qualities. One of the ways to clean our heart is to always introspect ourselves on all the mistakes we make. Are these qualities in us? If we have made mistakes because of these three characteristics, what we have to do is not repeat them, stay away from these characteristics, and apologize if there are parties who have been harmed as a result of these mistakes.

The more we ask Allah for forgiveness, the more Allah will forgive us and raise our degrees before Him, so that our spiritual quality will be even better and healthier. The more the quality of our spiritual health improves, the better the quality of our physical health will be so that we will be more enthusiastic in worshiping Him.

2. Al-Kindi  

His full name was Abu-Yusuf Ya‘qub ibn Ishaq ibn as-Sabbah ibn ‘Omran ibn Isma‘il al-Kindi (801 – 873), who died in Baghdad. One of his popular sayings is “Our residence in this phenomenal world is transitory; it is a journey towards the eternal one.”

Besides understanding Arabic, he was also fluent in Greek. Inevitably this made him quite a lot to translate the works of Greek philosophers into Arabic, such as the works of Aristotle and Plato.

During his life, Al-Kindi had written many works in various disciplines. Among others, are the fields of metaphysics, logic, mathematics, astrology, psychology, and so on. In addition, he had quite extensive knowledge of music. He is believed to be the first figure who laid the foundation for music theory, namely when he discussed the cosmological connotations of music.

Al-Kindi was also known as the first figure to use music as a therapeutic medium to get rid of the disease. He realized that music had properties to maintain physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Music therapy was practiced by Al-Kindi to cure one of his patients who suffered from quadriplegia or tetraplegia. Namely a paralysis caused by injury or disease suffered by humans and results in loss of bodily functions. Al-Kindi argued that if a piece of music has the right tone and frequency composition, harmony will be created so that it is pleasant to hear. People who listen to it become relaxed and calm. This made him the first Muslim philosopher to make music a therapeutic treatment.

Al-Kindi is believed to have about 15 works that specifically review music. However, only five of them are still exist. One of the titles of his book or work is “Musiq”. The title of this book is believed to be the forerunner to the birth of the word “music”.  

3. Ibn Arabi

Born in Islamic Golden Age period, Ibn Arabi was very famous as an Islamic philosopher even until today. Ali, the father of Ibn al-Arabi, worked as an employee of Muhammad ibn Sa’id ibn Mardanisy, ruler of Murcia, Spain. When Murcia was conquered by the Al-Muwahhidun dynasty, the Ali family fled to Seville and settled there. In that place, once again he became a government employee. He had a high social status. When he was eight years old, after settling in Seville, Ibn Arabi grew up in an environment filled with important ideas of that time, science, religion, and philosophy. He began his formal education in the science center city. Under the tutelage of renowned scholars, he studied the Quran and its commentaries, hadith, fiqh, theology, and scholastic philosophy. Ibn Arabi’s brilliant achievements in his education led to his position as secretary to the Governor of Seville. Seville was also an important center of Sufism, with a number of prominent Sufi masters living there.

Ibn Arabi wrote hundreds of books that are very useful and meaningful for us, not only for the past time but also, for now, the present time. The two books he wrote which are very phenomenal around the world until today are “Fushush Al-Hikam” and “Al-Futuhat Al-Makkiyyah”, using lots of metaphors talking about God’s love for all His creations.

One of his popular sayings is “How can the heart travel to Allah when it is chained by its desires.” From this quote, we can see how deep and powerful Ibn Arabi’s thoughts were about the importance of a healthy heart in our life. Not only physically, but the most important thing is the health of the heart in its journey of worshiping Allah.


Al-Ghazali, Al-Kindi, and Ibn Arabi are great Muslim scholars with great contributions to the Islamic teachings world, especially in Islamic Psychology. We can learn so much from their works. They are our role teachers in the world of education.


Syafwan, Rozi. (2018). TASAWUF DAN PSIKOLOGI: Tinjauan Psikologi Kesehatan Mental Terhadap Konsep Maqâm dan Hâl dalam Tasawuf Ibn ‘Arabi. IAIN Bukittinggi, Bukittinggi. (n.d.). Al-Isra (17:367). Retrieved November 28, 2022, from

Basri. (2017). EPISTEMOLOGI PSIKOLOGI ISLAM. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from

Al-Jubouri. (2004). History of Islamic Philosophy – With View of Greek Philosophy and Early History of Islam. Bright Pen. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from

Chittick, W. (2008). Ibn ‘Arabî. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from

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Nina Kirana
Artist (Language, Music🎻, Literature)

Japanese Language - Padjadjaran University
Psychology - International Open University
English Literature and Translation - Indonesia Open University